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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Acclimatizing Workers to Heat

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 29, 2015 9:21:20 AM

Acclimatizing_Workers_to_HeatSusceptibility to temperature-related disease may differ widely between individuals. When confronted with warm conditions for many days, individuals become gradually acclimatized. Physical improvements in blood vessels along with perspiration work to dissipate body heat more effectively. In working conditions where the heat index is large, special precautions are needed to protect un-acclimatized individuals while they acclimatize to the conditions. These precautions are especially important during the first couple days on the job.

Develop a heat acclimatization program and plans that promote individuals to work continuously at a sustainable rate during times of high heat. With working with new employees or workers who have recently taken prolonged time off from work, each individual must start with 20% of a normal work load for the first day. Each of the following days after the first, the employee is allowed to receive a work increase is no more than 20% daily.  When weather patterns lead to a quick change into excessively hot weather, all workers, including very experienced ones, should work at 50% of the normal work load in the first day of the heat wave, increasing to 60% on the second day, 80% on the third day and 100% by the fourth day. Complete acclimation may take up to two weeks for some employees. Acclimation time can change depending on an individual’s susceptibility for heat illness, medications they are taking, medical limitations, or the heat intensity of the environment they work in.

It is imperative to determine how an individual’s workload will be reduced during their adjustment period to ensure employee safety.

Remember that acclimatization can happen naturally for individuals that work in hot/warm outdoor environments as the temperature changes throughout the year. However, implementing acclimatization routines is essential for all brand new employees, workers returning from a prolonged illness or on holiday, and all workers during times of heat waves. It if important for supervisors to be extra vigilant with these workers, and identify symptoms of heat related problems as soon as they become evident.

Having a plan for protecting your employees during sudden heat increase is imperative to ensuring proper protection of all employees against unexpected exposure to heat.

Why acclimation is important for all workers:

To an extent, most individuals are capable of adjusting to working in high temperatures. The majority of the body changes that make working in heat more bearable take place in about 5 -7 days. Through some of these bodily changes can take up to two weeks, and the length of the acclimation process is different for every worker.

On an individual’s first day of working a hot atmosphere, the body’s general discomfort, pulse rate, and temperature will all be at increased levels. As a worker continues to work in the hot environment, all of these bodily responses will steadily decrease while the workers sweat rate may gradually increase. The worker should find that it becomes easier over time to complete the given tasks at work in the hot environment with less stress on the body.

Gradually increasing exposure to hot environments gives the human body time to acclimate itself safely to extended exposures of these temperatures. Heat related problems tend to occur more frequently in workers who have not had the proper acclimation period and are put strait to work in high heat environments, as well as workers who have taken time away from high heat environments. Whenever a working returns to work from a leisurely vacation or is starting a new job that requires heat exposure, it is imperative that they go through the proper acclimation period in order to ensure there worksite safety.

Individuals whom have taken time off from working in a hot environment, what lasted for a week or more, need to be re-acclimated to the environment to ensure their safety. These individuals must avoid doing too much strenuous work during their first weeks back.

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